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Phelps is no villain – nor a Frosted Flakes hero

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Feb. 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm with 2 Comments »
February 11, 2009 7:46 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.



Marijuana users may not deserve prison. But they aren’t entitled to multimillion-dollar sponsorships.


Buy Kellogg’s cereal. Eat lots of it.


That’s our reaction to calls by marijuana advocates to boycott the Kellogg Co. because it chose to stop portraying Michael Phelps as a hero for kids on boxes of Frosted Flakes.


Phelps, as the whole world must know by now, has admitted smoking weed after a photo surfaced of him taking a hit from a bong. Smoking marijuana is a common and piddly offense. Phelps acknowledged it and promptly apologized. He gets points for forthrightness.


But the Kellogg Co. gets points for not renewing its contract with Phelps after the image of him pulling on a water pipe got splashed on screens around the world.


The problem with lionizing him on breakfast tables in front of 7-year-olds was inadvertently underscored by the marijuana touts themselves.



When the story broke, they immediately seized on it as evidence that a dope smoker can win a slew of Olympic gold medals. Such a wonderful drug. They somehow neglected to mention the risks of today’s high-potency marijuana – or a new report from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center linking dope-smoking to aggressive testicular cancer.


An occasional – or perhaps single – indulgence in marijuana was hardly going to slow down an athlete as naturally gifted as Phelps. That doesn’t mean his career would have survived regular use, and regular use is the threat of any potentially habitual drug.


As more evidence of the benignity of marijuana, its champions cite the fact that Barack Obama and his two predecessors in the White House appear to have been users in their distant youths. The reality is, people succeed in athletics and public life despite youthful experimentation with marijuana, not because of it.


There are arguments for decriminalizing marijuana or at least softening existing sanctions. The "harm reduction" model of public health emphasizes treatment and support to wean drug users off their habits.


Among serious people, though, harm reduction is an anti-drug strategy, not a pretext for eliminating barriers to drug use. Harm reduction doesn’t demand that a marijuana smoker continue to enjoy multimillion-dollar corporate sponsorships.


There’s actually a different term for sheltering drug-users from real-world consequences: enabling.


When you try to punish a private company for refusing to turn a publicized marijuana user into an icon for children, you are not merely quibbling over public drug policies. You’re defending the drug itself.

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Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. Well, when you’re right you’re right. SIr Callahan hits it on the nose. And all the sneering and snickering by the late night “with it” crowd about how Kellogg profits from the “munchies,” isn’t going to change the fundamental moral set-up here. I love Michael Phelps and his accomplishments–a disciplined kid who’s slacking off for a while after his monumental feat. But, hey, a deal is a deal and the sponsor has a huge investment to protect. So, folks, ease up–and give Kelloggs some kudo’s for its swift, and totally consistent response.

  2. And what did we get by enabling the maintenance alcoholic Dick Cheney?

    Some consistency please – how about medical supervision of all booze?

    Take a gander at that one the next time you and your drinking buddies get together to solve the world’s problems,.,,

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